CAS

CAS

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

White Dwarf #18 Fiend Factory - Mandrake People


I was thinking about doing a series of posts on White Dwarf's Fiend Factory when this entry caught my eye. Rather than go back to the first issue with the column I've decided to start here and go back and forth with it till I'm caught up.

The Mandrake People is a creature inspired by one of Thomas Burnett Swann's stories. I'm not familiar with it and it sounds a bit like it may be a short story so I don't know how easy it will be to track down. I haven't read to much Swann. The few I have were short and I have the memory of them being tragic retellings of mythology, but most mythology kind of swings that way.

There are some great ideas here, the viagra babies gave me a chuckle, but the mildly vampiric Mandrake women were an excellent idea, which is why robbing fiction for game ideas is such a good idea.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Wormy Reference Guide - Dragon #48


Summary:
Wormy is playing pool when Irving decides to play a game of his own on Wormy. With the use of an old bone and some sound effects Irving makes it seem another Snookerball has cracked and released a blue Ethereal Demon. Wormy moves lightning fast and even loses his cap for a minute in his rush only to find Irving sitting in a corner-pocket. After giving the little red Imp a giant-sized warning Wormy fetches his cap and brushes off Irving's warning about the dangers of playing games with the Snookerballs.

References:

Ethereal Demon:
Wormy worries that one of the blue Demons has escaped but it is only Irving playing a joke.

Irving:
With a crack and some loud FFFing noises Irving gets Wormy to think that another Snookerball has cracked. He takes the mild threat from Wormy in stride and still gives a warning about the dangers of playing with Snookerballs filled with demons.

Snookerballs:
Wormy has cracking the Snookerballs all day across his pool table till Irving uses one for a prank.

Wormy:
Wormy loses his cap in a rush to see if one of the Ethereal Demons has escaped only to find Irving playing a joke. With a non-too-subtle warning he lets Irving off easily and takes the little demons fears in stride.

NPC - Rusty


Outwardly Rusty is a typical Rust Monster but in actuality he was a skilled blacksmith who ran afoul of a powerful Sorceror with an ironic sense of humor. He has the normal abilities of a Rust Monster but the mind of the man he once was. The Wizard Talberth discovered him held in a cage of bone in the caverns of the Dark Elves but was unable to dispel the powerful enchantment. Currently Rusty helps to guard the Wizard's mansion in the town of Gorakil but slowly the mind of the man is disappearing leaving only a fading memory in the body of the monster.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

White Dwarf #18 AD&D Mini-Scenario The Halls of Tizun Thane


The Halls of Tizun Thane by Albie Fiore

This is one of my favorite adventures from White Dwarf. It is recommended for a large party of 1st to 2nd level adventurers and is wildly inappropriate for such low level fodder. Several of the creatures encountered could slaughter the party by themselves, one group of monsters right at the start of the adventure before the players even make it to the halls. The way the scenario is set up it is an almost guarantee that they are going to all get killed unless the DM is in a railroady mood. While there is some slight amusement to be had for a DM in seeing all the PCs die a gruesome death I try to avoid such things without better warning than having an NPC tell the players not to do something that will stir their curiosity. Definitely some changes need to be made, but it is still a great adventure with a huge amount of material stuffed into 6 oversized pages.






Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Riddle Master of Hed trilogy by Patricia McKillip


When I first read this story I didn't enjoy it but coming back to it I think it is perhaps one of the best fantasy stories ever written. It is rich and evocative, filled with a sense of mystery, beauty, sadness... There is a world described here that is mythical and yet full of connections to ourselves. This is not a retelling of The Lord of the Rings, which was a popular theme at the time. It is not allegorical or filled with subtle or unsubtle political references. It is not brutally, decadently, crassly, boorishly realistic. It has power and imagination and magic and a conclusion after only around 700 pages total that people following overstuffed, endlessly sequelled, glaciarly paced fantasy series might find disconcerting.

The Spear That Roars for Blood - Part 10



The tunnel moved beneath Nantosvelta's feet, but she was sure-footed and had played along these swirling walls before her mother chased her from her home. No other nymphs resided here, just her mother, the servants and her sculpture garden of once living flesh, now lifeless stone. She sighed, she would not waste such a one as rested in her bed, but her debt was overdue and her mother's wrath was something she could not face let alone survive.

The crashing fall was far overhead, the whirlpool tunnel ended in great doors of water-polished stone. She shuddered at its sight. The frame, which arched high above her head, was adorned with nymphs of stone, her sisters who had failed to pay the debt of life they owed to their mother-queen. They paid it with their deaths. A dozen statues, sad faced, poignant, carved from flesh and set stiff in hard cold stone. Some had looks of fear or terror, one beauty laughed, harsh and brave. Another's lips curled in contempt, a fist raised against her fate. This one was set against the door, her raised arm, a handle to pull open the heavy valve. Beside her stood a hand-masked face, one hand hiding fearful eyes, the other outstretched to keep away the numbing death that claimed her.

Nantosvelta grabbed her sister's defiant hand. She would not share this fate, but if she somehow did, she'd stare it down bold eyed and not cower back like some mayfly human maid.

The passage seemed unguarded but the nymph knew better. Her mother's pets kept watch. A mated pair of monstrous basilisks laired within the queen's palace, their offspring allowed to roam at will along this hall. The greenstone charm Nantosvelta held in her hand felt warm, it glowed and sent out a sound beyond her hearing that kept the basilisk brood away.

The walls were lined with examples of her mother's art. Above her head a flock of geese, frozen forever in flight, winged their way across a ceiling colored a cloudy blue. She was running out of room, thought Nantosvelta. The walls were heavy with the bodies of countless victims, the tiled pathway lined with such as well. The nymph shuddered, she remembered playing games among these creatures whose flesh, now stone, once lived, whose eyes once shown, chests heaved with air and voices sounded, now rendered stiff and silent for countless years.

She came at last to a mighty door, two golems made of stone stood at either side. A statue set in the door itself shimmered and came alive. With a smooth graceful step it moved across the floor, behind it, a hollow man-shaped space was left. The statues features changed, no longer a bare-chested man of dark grey stone, now, warm reddish flesh, with feline golden eyes, small horns upon its head and a pair of wings that a dragon chick might possess, upon its back.

It smiled at the nymph, its teeth were white and even, but it had long needle-pointed fangs, its hand had claws that curved like little scimitars.

***

"Caliban!" Nantosvelta exclaimed. She had not expected to see her half-brother here again.

"Svelta!" cried the cambion, half nymph, half demon, sired by some hellish lord. "I am glad to see you, but I wish it was not here."

Svelta, as her brother called her, ran to his embrace. He lifted her from the floor and swung her around, then set her back on her feet.

"Do not be sad brother," Svelta said. "I come to pay my debt."

"Ah, so you have found a toy for our mother to add to her collection," Caliban smiled. "Good. Will it do? She has become jaded by our other sisters' gifts."

"I believe that this one will redeem my debt in full," Svelta said with regret.

"Ahh! This one must be quite a catch if it has touched your heart," Caliban caught her wistful tone.

"Nonsense. I have had him only a few days. He needs to rest and heal," Svelta rejected her brother's judgement.

"So quick! It truly must be a special toy," Caliban then frowned. "But damaged. Just what is it that you have found?"

***

Arawn's dreaming mind drifted on. He could not close his spectral eye though the land he loved had become a nightmare of pillage, slaughter and destruction. He rose, floating on a wind of thought, above the ravaged streets of Gorakil. The last defenders fell and the center streets were packed, panic roamed at will and terror ruled the night just ending. He heard the gonging of the great bells above Finnian's temple, one last peal to greet the dawn, but there would be no tomorrow.

Up he went, rising high into the paling sky, below the town shrank to a child's toy. The cries of fear and screams of pain became remote then disappeared. Arawn looked across the land, Highaelph, Der and Nagham, all were besieged. To the north of Nagham the town of Bluewater fell as Gorakil had. Its guardsmen sleeping out the last hour of their watch, hobgoblin knives saw that they would never wake again.

***

"I have found a hero," Svelta said and smiled.

Caliban laughed, the sound echoed strangely along the hall, a hundred stone-frozen faces looked on and listened with ears that could no longer hear. "My sister, I never knew you to be so romantic." He saw her frown. "He may well do, mother is a romantic herself."

"Mother? Romantic?" the nymph could not believe her ears.

Caliban waved his hand in a sweep to include the macabre decorations in the hall. "All this is a romance, though dark and grim. You are very much like our mother, and that is no insult. She is cruel, yes, but I have walked along the layers of Hell and the Abyss. They have romance there as well, but they make such things as this," he pointed to their sisters' stony form, "look like a sunny day or a pleasant dream."

***

Arawn dreamed, but it was not fair or pleasant. Time came and went, quick then slow. He floated high to see the entire land then dropped down low and, helpless, watched a farmstead south of Der be overwhelmed by a howling pack of dogmen.

Further south he watched as fires began to grow and swept through the Yewwood. But the forest was full of life and it took a magic flame to keep the blazes lit. Fire formorians from the southern mountains led packs of red eyed monstrous hounds whose breath was the flame of Hell. They fought their way along the Bluewater river to the center of the wood.

At Patrick's crossing, a lumber town, its defenders were driven away at great cost, and with eyes shamed at the sight, Arawn watched the elders of the town open the gates and surrender to the formorians, begging for their lives. A towering red-haired formorian, with skin black as coal in a forge, lifted up a foot and crushed the leader of the town beneath his ponderous boot. The people cried out, but at the formorian's growl they hid their faces and whined in fear, submitting to their fate and their new master's harsh decrees.

All across the land the story was the same. Defenders fell, from the Cavehill to the Green Oakwood and across the fields between. Just before he wakened, Arawn's eye fell on Nagham, the capital city, its walls were breached, its gates thrown down. The Duke's guard fought beside shopkeepers and fishermen, but to no effect. At best they slowed the formorians' advance, at worst they increased their wrath. Wagons used as makeshift barricades were flung aside like children's toys. The living, wounded or hale, man, woman or child, were killed when found and some were made into a hasty meal by their killers, fighting was hungry work.

Arawn's eye flew above the ruined streets till he reached the Duke's great keep. Already fire touched its walls and massive stones thrown by formorians' heavy arms had left the battlements with broken teeth, the fallen merlons knocked into the yard below.

The Duke himself stood upon the parapet and looked into the street below and as Arawn watched the Duke turned his head and stared him in the eye.

"Arawn," The Duke spoke and called to him by name. "Arawn, find the druidess Blodeuwedd, for all our sakes. Ask her help and tell her this,"

I am a Spear: that Roars for Blood,
I am a Salmon: in a Pool,
I am a Lure: from Paradise,
I am a Hill: where Poets walk,
I am a Boar: Ruthless and Red,
I am a Breaker: threatening Doom,
I am a Tide: that drags to Death,
I am an Infant: Who but I
peeps from the unhewn Dolman Arch?

The Duke wore Daghdha's face. "You are as a son to me, Arawn."

And in a sweat, Arawn awoke, starting from his grassy bed.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Repost - Minstrel Tales Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye



Minstrel Tales Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye

A small ditty from the streets of Greyhawk. It is considered rather rude and disrespectful of the Watch, but is sung throughout most of the city's inns and taverns.

Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye

Now Jak was a watchman whose post was Old Town
And she was a damsel, the street she skipped down
Said the damsel to Jak as she passed him by
Would you care for to purchase some Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye?

Thought Jak to himself now what can this be
But the finest dwarf whiskey from the Barrier Peaks
Smuggled down in a basket and sold on the sly
And the name that it goes by is Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye.

Jak gave her a gold piece and he thought nothing strange
She said, hold on to the basket till I run for your change
Jak looked in the basket and a child he did spy
I'm a goblin says Jak, if this be Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye.

Now to get the child fostered was Jak's next intent
For to get the child fostered to the priestess he went
Said the priestess to Jak, what will he go by?
Your worship says Jak, call him Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye.

Says the priestess to Jak, there's a very strange name
Your worship says Jak, 'twas the strange way he came
Smuggled down in a basket and sold on the sly
And the name that he'll go by is Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye'

Now all you bold watchmen who roam on the town
Beware of the damsels who skip up and down
Take a peep in their baskets as they pass you by
Or else they may sell you some Black-Eyed Dwarf Rye.


(Very lightly adapted from Quare Bungle Rye a popular song from Limerick)

White Dwarf #18 Cover Art (Or Lack There Of)


No artwork this issue, but on the death of the magazine I'm told it received total consciousness. Not the worst cover in the world and it does tie-in with the mini-scenario in this issue but disappointing none-the-less. This was arguably the worst Star Trek movie ever made but most of them were so bad that graduations of badness are hard to assign.  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Wormy Reference Guide - Dragon #47


Summay:
Irving is in a snow-covered land and sees a beautiful winged centauress flying above him. He manages to catch up to her by flapping his wings and flying, though he is able to float in mid-air as well. She wonders if he is a Thaumaturge and he accepts the offer and climbs on her back only to discover that they are in Hyperborea and she changes into an icicle; And then he wakes up and it was all a dream. Looking at the embers of the dying fire Irving isn't surprised he was cold and tosses more logs on his bed before chasing after his dream centauress again.

References:

Centauress, Winged:
A mythical creature perhaps.

Hyperborea:
A cold, cold land,

Irving:
Fire proof as all little red Demons should be.

Thaumaturge:
A type of wizard

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Repost - Minstrel Tales The Amedio Fishers



Minstrel Tales The Amedio Fishers

Here is a song/poem. It is translated from the native language of the dwellers of the Amedio Jungle who live along the edge of the Azure Sea. Silvertongue the Bard first sang this at the Low Seas' Tavern in Greyhawk's River Quarter several years ago. Since then it has become popular among sailors from Jeklea Bay to the Solnor Ocean.

The Amedio Fishers

Rise, brothers, rise; the wakening skies pray to the morning light,
The Wind lies asleep in the arms of the dawn like a child that has
cried all night.
Come, let us gather our nets from the shore, and set our long boats
free,
To capture the leaping wealth of the tide, for we are the kings of the
sea!

No longer delay, let us hasten away in the track of the seagull's call,
Lydia is our mother, the cloud is our brother, the waves are our
comrades all.
What though we toss at the fall of the sun where the hand of Xerbo
drives?
He who holds the storm by the hair, will hide in his breast our lives.

Sweet is the shade of the deklo glade, and the scent of the kara
grove,
And sweet are the sands at the full o' the moons with the sound of the
voices we love;
But sweeter, O brothers, the kiss of the spray and the dance of the wild
foam's glee;
Row, brothers, row to the edge of the verge, where the low sky mates
with the Azure sea.

"The Coromandel Fishers" By Sarojini Naidu (with trivial alterations)

The Spear That Roars for Blood - Part 9



Arawn clutched at the formorian's neck and thought to choke away its breath. It gave a gag and stopped its swimming but with one hand broke his grasp and badly wrenched the ranger's arm. Arawn slid back hanging on only by a strand of the giant's hair. It rolled and suddenly Arawn was beneath the water, he held his breath and tried to pull himself to the surface but the formorian was in the way. 

Hand by hand Arawn climbed up the formorian's head by using the sodden hair like a boarding net. The giant rolled again, Arawn was spun and with his feet lashed out. He struck the monster's neck and hooked first one leg then like a scissor trapped the tree-like throat with his other. Arawn squeezed, the formorian began to thrash wildly about. It twisted and clawed at his legs. One mighty hand enclosed his calf in a crushing grip, the formorian's fingers tightened; Arawn clenched his teeth in pain. He tried to reach around the monster's head and claw at its eyes, but the river caught both unaware. A crest of foaming white dowsed their heads and then they were falling free.

Arawn released his grip, the formorian did the same and for a brief second they hung upon the air, the boiling water came rushing up and swallowed them.

The world exploded red. Arawn landed on the giant's chest beneath the pool, the giant landed on its back and a rounded boulder broke its fall. The river pushed them on. Arawn grabbed for the formorian's beard but his arm did not obey. He grabbed again, his left hand answered, the formorian, dead with a broken back, floated to the surface with Arawn hanging on. The ranger's right arm dangled limp, his legs were half submerged. He lay across the monster's neck and twisted its beard around his wrist. With his left hand tangled tight, Arawn leaned back upon the dead creature's chest. The shining sun beat down, the current rushed them both along, Arawn closed his eyes and a red-rimmed darkness was what he took into his dreams.

**

A face of icy living-blue hung before him. The water sent long curling tendrils of greenish silver hair streaming with the current. Her eyes were wide. They shone silver on green, a reflection of her silky hair. Her face was fine and fairer than any Arawn had ever seen, her lips were green as well. She brought them to his own and with her kiss she brought him life. The water in his lungs he breathed like air, he gasped. This was no pleasant dream. He'd drowned, or near enough. She laughed; Arawn heard it clear though muffled by the water between them. He tried to pull away but his arm was dead and his other arm was trapped. Arawn broke her kiss, a sudden sense of loss assailed him; he tried to free his arm.

A pair of bulging eyes looked down. Somewhere in their course the formorian had been flipped over sending Arawn beneath to drown. His hand was still knotted to the formorian's beard but it only served to keep him trapped below the massive bloating corpse. A gentle hand reached out and turned his head he looked deep into the silver eyes and lost himself.

Arawn gave a deep sigh and let the lovely vision draw her hand up his arm and touch the knotted mess of beard. "Ahk-Kee,"" she said and the tangles all came free. She took Arawn's hand within her own and led him away from the formorian's corpse, down the river and to a branching stream.

***

Arawn lay upon a bed of grass, a small tussock pillowed beneath his head. He reached out dreamily with his left hand and stroked the nymph's silken hair. His right arm lay across his chest, bound in a sling of leaves and vines. He watched her as she lay beside him, Nantosvelta, the upper reaches of the Aelphstream had been her domain for ages. Her eyes were open and she stared into his own. A distant memory assailed him, he frowned and looked away. She reached out her hand and touched his cheek, then ran her fingers down his chin.

"Arawn," she said, "you need have no concerns. You are safe here, think only thoughts of love." Nantosvelta turned his head and put her fingers against his lips. She kissed his eyes, then as he slept, kissed his lips and let him rest and heal.

They lay upon a grass-covered hill above a small brisk stream. The Aelphstream had many such children across the hills and lowlands, like branches from a mighty many-fingered tree. Nantosvelta rose and dressed herself in a cloth of shimmering blue, she said a word, "Pit-Ze," and the grass that Arawn rested on grew long and covered him like a blanket of living green. She bent and put her hand upon his brow, "Rak-Kas," she said and Arawn stirred and tossed, but slept.

Nantosvelta ran along the riverbank, the morning sun was bright, the air blew warm. An early spring had come upon the land. She laughed and danced, it had been long since she had found a man to love and this one, no crude hunter, or miner who cut away the hills. This Arawn had a hero's blood, and a hero's wounds as well. His will was strong, he wanted her she knew full well, but some duty pulled him from her arms. She'd cast her spell, twice now, when for most men just a kiss or a mere glimpse of her would do. This strength made him a greater prize. He would be payment for a debt she owed.

Along the southern bank of the Aelphstream she ran, fast as a hart and nimble too. The monsters who had trod along the northern way had passed, she grimaced at the damage they had caused. Ahead, upstream, her mother lived beneath the cold and crystal lake from which the river came. Nantosuelta, she was a queen among their kind, and cold as the lake she made her home.

***

Arawn dreamed or thought he did. A woman green of hair and eye, she brought him to a bed made of living grass and he took her in his arms. But something nagged at him, the dream of love seemed out of place. He tried to clear his eyes of sleep, his arm was bound, his left arm thrashed beneath the covers made of woven grass. He did not wake, but his dream quickly changed.

Darkness covered a sleeping town, guardsman nodded at their posts, no harm had come in living memory to this place, why guard when they knew well that all was safe? Perhaps no greater vigilance could have saved them from their fate. They did not hear or see the thousand sets of padding feet or notice the click and clack of tall waving ladders as they came to rest against the walls. A face of brutish orange-red appeared above the battlement, followed by a thick-muscled arm. The hobgoblin stood above the town, a large curved sword held in its hand, a dozen others joined it around the wall and then a dozen more. They ran for towers that sat astride the western gate. A guardsman, waking from a snoring sleep gave a muffled scream but was cut short, choking on a length of sharpened steel. Ahead, a door, heavy and thick enough to take a ram to knock it down, it was unlocked, unbarred, unwatched. Both towers fell, the screams within alerted none. The lower doors were flung open wide, the hobgoblins raised the main gate's massive bar and pushed each door aside.

An arching bridge crossed the Aelphstream as it flowed along the edge of town. Across it a band of formorians came, they marched without order and without concern, already as masters of this their new domain.

Arawn tried to scream, too late. He knew his warning would not be heard.

***

Nantosvelta stood before a roaring fall. High above, the frozen lake had begun to melt and the river swelled. A wide pool lay beneath the fall, it boiled white, water crashed down and foamed. In her smooth, long fingered hand the nymph held a green translucent stone, a circle, two fish chased each other head to tail, just quite catching a tailfin tip within a grasping mouth. "Mother," she said to the green fish charm. "Mother, I seek an audience."

A whirlpool formed, the waters began to churn and sweep the foaming waves aside. A hollow space appeared at the center of the spiraling water. Nantosvelta leapt and graceful as a diving bird plunged headfirst down the vortex in the pool.

***

Arawn could not wake. Bespelled, he struggled against his formorian foes. He walked the streets of Gorakil like a ghost, witness to a thousand deaths and screams as the sleeping populace wakened to their fate.

Too long the town lay secure among the western borders of the realm. The horror that descended now was stuff that happened only to other folk in minstrels' tales. The monsters spread out and circled round the inside of the walls. They seized the gates to Donag and to Der then slowly fought their way further in, driving the fleeing citizens to the monastery at the center of the town.

From the Aelphstream scores of creatures rose. Beslimed and lank-haired the skarpas, a type of water troll, stepped upon the river bank and ambled to the open northern gate. The formorian guard whose tedious duty was to sit and wait and keep the humans trapped inside their dying town, held closed his nose and mouth as the filthy, stinking creatures passed. They smelled of marsh gas, sludge and bloated putrid flesh, he gagged.

As they passed he called to them. "Hey, you're late. You'll have to fight your four-eyed cousins for a decent meal." They ambled on. If they understood his call they didn't pay it any mind.

White Dwarf #17 - My Life as a Werebear



By Lew Pulsipher

"I traveled the road many times, sat on the porch, played the games, been the dog, everything. I was even the scarecrow for a while."

After running AD&D for years I think all DMs have gone down this path and let their players run monsters. This is an early incarnation of that idea with some interesting twists such as a player running a Blink Dog pack or the example of the Lammasu as a player race/class, The general thrust of the article is that any 'monster' could be run by players and the special abilities of certain monsters only gained through experience which for some would also equate to age.

The examples provided are a good mix of monster types with the Stone Giant shown as perhaps the easiest to convert to a leveled race/class and the Werebear and Blink Dog pack more involved. I'd add more racial abilities to the Stone Giant and deal with the Werebear as a normal character with a specific class that is simply afflicted with lycanthropy. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Lone Wolf 1e AD&D Conversion - Post 2




I'm a bit behind on my conversion work of the Lone Wolf setting and adventures. I have my copy of the original Magnamund Companion at hand, which is a little treasure of source material. and it will be of immense help filling in the backstory for the characters as they undertake the adventure.

When I picked up the Adventures of Lone Wolf Book 1 'Flight in the Dark' I had no idea where it would lead, or how many books there would be in the series. I plan on working on the conversion in the same way I first played the series; understanding the rules, creating the character, reading the backstory and setting off on the adventure numbered paragraph by numbered paragraph. 

The rules in the book are straightforward but necessarily limited. Conversion to 1e AD&D is also straightforward and with only a few limiting factors at the beginning. Any of the character classes presented in the 1e PHB are available for player characters but the only playable character race is human. Since the Lone Wolf series features Monks who already have a very AD&D feel to them I plan on adding the powers presented in the Lone Wolf books to add or replace the powers granted in the PHB. If this makes the Monk a more desirable class to play then so be it. The setting encourages a Monk-centric style of play and I whole-heartedly approve.

As I work on converting the first adventure book I intend to design it around a party of 4-6 player characters of 1st level. The Kai Monastery will train not only Monks but all character classes. The children of the Warrior Lords of Sommerlund (and beyond) are taught according to their abilities, some as Monks, other as Magic-Users, or Clerics of Isher, High Priestess of the Moon and Kai, Lord of the Sun. Only the wisdom of the Druids is not taught and characters wishing to be Druids will be renegade Cenerese, a race of people defeated in a protracted war with the more trusted Herbalish a holy order of Healers (an NPC class I am developing). 

Some of the creatures found in the Monster Manual I & II and the Fiend Folio will be suitable for the Lone Wolf setting and some of the creatures, such as the ubiquitous Giak, an Orc by any other name, will have unique qualities but many similarities to their AD&D brethren. 

And now to begin. The Story So Far...

In the northern land of Sommerlund, it has been the custom for many centuries to send the children of the Warrior Lords to the monastery of Kai for their training in the varied skilled arts of the land. There they are taught the ways of Warrior, Magic-User, Thief, Assassin, Monk, or the worship of Isher and Kai as Clerics of their faith.

The Kai Monks, Guildmasters, Temple Priests and Priestesses are master of their arts, and the children in their charge love and respect them in spite of the hardships of their training. One day when the children of the nobility have finally passed their apprenticeships they will return home equipped in mind and body to defend themselves against the constant threat of war from the Darklords of the west.

In the olden times, during the Age of the Black Moon, the Darklords waged war on Sommerlund. The conflict was a long and bitter trial of strength that ended in victory for the Sommerlending at the great battle of Maakengorge. King Ulnar and the allies of Durenor broke the Darklord armies at the pass of Moytura and forced them back into the bottomless abyss of Maakengorge. Vashna, mightiest of the Darklords, was slain upon the sword of Ulnar, called 'Sommerswerd', the sword of the sun. Since that age, the Darklords have vowed vengeance upon Summerlund and the House of Ulnar.

Now it is in the morning after the feast of Fehmarn when all the apprentices are judged and those who have proven themselves worthy begin their journey from the Kai Monastery back into the world to gain experience and use the skills they have spent so much hardship to attain. 

As you and your companions bid a sad but joyous farewell to the monastery and your childhood and begin your journey you feel the earth shake beneath your feet and a darkness sweeps across the sky in a wave. A blackness descends upon the monastery, a swirling sphere of nothingness. One of you reaches out with a branch and is thrown back, the branch a shriveled husk that turns to ash where it touched the blackness. 

The sky clears but the black sphere that had swallowed the monastery remains. In a sudden flash of realization you know what you must do. You must set off on a perilous journey to the capital city to warn the King of the the terrible threat that now faces your people; For you are now the last apprentices of the Kai until and if this sphere of blackness can be removed and the fate of those within revealed. 





Repost - Minstrel Tales, Songs & Poems of the Flanaess - A Prayer to Lolth



Minstrel Tales, Songs & Poems of the Flanaess

In my campaign, Bards, Skalds and Minstrels are fairly widespread across the Flanaess. They are sources for information, but much of what they convey is in the form of stories or song or poetry. I'm no poet, or lyricist so I normally convert Earthly songs and poems for Oerthly use.

A Prayer to Lolth

(The Priestess speaks)

She is Evil and huge and beautiful! She is our mother!

She is lustful and lewd! - Spider Queen; we have none other!

In the day she was hidden from us, but we found her moaning in the
shade.

We shudder and give her our will in the darkness; we are afraid.

(The Drow reply)

She sends us pain,
and we bow before her;

She smiled again
and bade us adore her;

She solaced our woe
and soothed our sighing;

And what shall we do
Without her guidence?

(The Priestess speaks)

She is hungry and eats our children; - how shall we feed her?

She takes our young males and our maidens; - ours to obey her!

We are loathed and feared and reviled of all Elvenkind; that is our pride.

She feeds us, protects us, loves us, and kills us; no longer shall we
hide.

(The Drow reply)

Death is strong;
But Lolth is stronger.

Time rules long;
But She rules longer.

She solaced our woe
and soothed our sighing;

And what shall we do
Without her guidence?

"On the Death of Smet-Smet, the Hippopotamus Goddess" By Rupert Brooke 1908 (with minor alterations for Greyhawk).

Monday, May 23, 2016

Wormy Reference Guide - Dragon #44



Summary:
Jack is bent over trying to scrape around the cave for some more Trolls when he is unexpectedly attacked in the behind by the Ethereal Demon released from the Snookerball by Frank. At the same time Bender has made his way to the top of the rise and is cutting Catfish and Frank free from Floyd's bag. Before the Ogre has time to notice the Demon has flown up and attacked his nose knocking him from the top of the small cliff in a FBDOOM!. The Demon goes after the Trolls and Catfish manages to stab it with the knife dropped by Bender even as he loses an arm to the Demon. It turns back into a dissipating cloud of blue smoke before it hits the ground.

References:

Bender:
The little Sallymander manages to climb the cliff and cut Catfish loose from Floyd's bag.

Catfish:
Rescued by Bender he loses an arm to the Ethereal Demon even as he manages to kill it with the knife dropped by Bender.

Ethereal Demon/ Snookerball Demon:
Unafraid of even giant-sized Ogres it manages to cut up Jack's bottom and Floyd's nose before getting knifed and dispatched by Frank. On their death the return to a cloud of blue smoke and disappear.

Floyd:
The Ethereal Demon attacks his nose and sends him stumbling off the small cliff.

Frank:
Trapped in Floyd's bag with Catfish he is rescued by Bender.

Jack:
With his head in the cave searching for Trolls he doesn't see the Ethereal Demon appear buts feels it when its claws tear into his bottom. He thinks it is Floyd playing tricks on him.

Snookerball:
The cracked Snookerball remains quiet and inanimate even when it is nearly hit by Bender's knife.

White Dwarf #17 Cover Art


Cover Art By Angus McKie

White Dwarf is hitting the Big Time with bit of artwork. I love this artwork and had many of Angus McKie's Sci-Fi illustrations in a number of books from the early 80's. He did work for Heavy Metal magazine and a segment of the movie. He was also a colorist for comics (a waste of the man's talents as he own artwork is fantastic). This is one of my favorite pieces of his artwork.

Repost - City of Greyhawk Southgate - Southgate Bridge (South Bridge)


NOTE: Map from City of Hawks by Gygax


City of Greyhawk Southgate - Southgate Bridge (South Bridge)

City of Greyhawk Southgate - Southgate Bridge (South Bridge)

NOTE: So far I have not found a reference to the name of the river that flows around the east of the city and connects with the Selintan nor a name for the bridge directly south of Southgate. I have used the information in Gygax's Yggsburgh's campaign as an inspiration and guideline for detailing the bridge and its guards.

Southgate is perhaps the busiest of Greyhawk's many gateways. Some may argue for Rivergate with its constant flow of goods into the city from the docks outside the walls, but the road south of the great city matches each cart, pack and wagonload through the Rivergate and surpasses such numbers with travellers on foot, horse, carriage and fantastic beast.

As the traffic flows into the city so do the coins from the tolls of South Bridge and the gates. While South Bridge is not part of the Southgate complex of walls and towers, as the bridge is nearly 250 feet from the city gate and the tollhouse at the south end of the bridge, the small detachment of guards (1 serjeant and 4 troopers as well as 2 recruits during the daywatch) are part of the gatehouse commander's garrison. The toll collector is a minor functionary of the city bureaucracy.

THE BRIDGE

Southgate Bridge or South Bridge as it is now more commonly called is a massively impressive structure. It was constructed at the same time as the gates and outer double-wall which surrounds modern Greyhawk. Cyclopedian blocks of stone were used to form its supporting pillars, (12 sets which span the swift moving Eastbend River as it curves around the city to merge with the Selintan). The surface of the bridge is formed of 8x8 foot stone slabs which can be replaced if broken or worn, but beneath them is a cradle of wooden timbers and a cunningly interlocked stonework that allows the bridge a great deal of flexibility.

The bridge is 80 feet wide and rises in a shallow arc to a high point at its center. It is nearly 250 feet long. At the south end of the bridge are two short pillars. A thick, iron chain is anchored about 3 feet above the ground to the eastern pillar. A groove is cut into the roadway so that when the chain is slack it fits flush with the road causing only a small bump to passing vehicles. The chain runs across the 80 foot width of the bridge and passes through a hole in the western pillar then runs another 10 feet into the east wall of the tollhouse. Inside there is a drum crank which is used to wind in the chain, taking up the slack so that it will run across the southern end of the bridge at a height of 3 feet. There are 3 wooden supports for the chain, used as the legs of a table for the toll collector during the day, that are used to keep the chain from sagging between the pillars. (The top of the table is a simple rectangle of wood kept in the tollhouse at night).

Along the sides of the bridge 15 foot high poles are set at intervals of 30 feet. At the top are open lanterns containing a round stone enchanted to give off continual light. At night the light from these lanterns illuminates the entire bridge except for a band of darkness about twenty feet wide at the center. The stones are a gift from the clerics of Fharlanghn who help to protect the Southgate entrance to the city.

Beneath the paving stones near the northern edge of the bridge is an enchanted brazier. The commander of the Southgate garrison possesses a torch made from crystal; (it hangs on the wall of his meeting chamber in the round Southgate tower). By touching the crystal torch to any source of fire and speaking a command word, (the name of a fire elemental, Xyphnryx) he summons the 16HD elemental to perform a single task. The creature will appear in the enchanted brazier beneath the bridge and consume the center of the wooden beams supporting the roadway. The elemental can burn through enough of the wooden supports to collapse a 1 foot section of bridge surface every 2 combat rounds. It's geas is for it to burn through the entire 250 foot length of the bridge supports. It will continue to do so unless attacked, then attempt to destroy or force its attacker from the bridge. It will then continue to burn through bridge supports unless halted by the crystal torch being plunged into water and the command word Xyrnhpyx pronounced. At that point the elemental will return to the elemental plane of fire and will not return. The crystal torch and brazier must be re-enchanted and another elemental bound to the summoning brazier. Once fired the wooden beams and stone slabs of the bridge surface will fall into the river. The pillars and stone skeleton of the bridge will be unharmed needing only new beams and stone slabs to be completely repaired.

THE TOLLHOUSE

The tollhouse is situated at the south side of the bridge and set 10 feet west of the west stone pillar. The building is 20 feet wide and runs 30 feet south. The walls are foot-thick stone fitted together with the same craft as the bridge and the walls of the city. At the south edge of the east wall there is a stout oaken doorway that can be barred from the inside (the doorway can withstand 150 HP worth of damage before splintering). Piercing weapons cause no-damage unless magic and then only any magical bonus damage, blunt and slashing weapons cause half damage, but chopping weapons cause full. The door requires no to hit roll but if critical hit charts are used a d20 should be rolled, where a 1 is a normal fumble and a 20 double damage.

The walls are pierced with loopholes at a height of 7 feet above the ground. The ceiling is very high, 12 feet above the floor. There are 4 loopholes in the east wall, 6 on the west, 3 on the south and just 2 on the north (a fireplace is built into the center of the north wall and the loopholes are on either side). There are six wooden chests that are used by the guards to stand on to fire their heavy crossbows through the loopholes. Their vision is limited so to hit rolls are made at -3, but they receive almost complete cover inside the tollhouse and their armor class for return missile fire receives a+10 bonus.

The interior of the tollhouse is lit by two lanterns each with a small continual light stone inside and suspended from the roof by a chain which can be raised and lowered, (another gift from the clerics of Fharlanghn). Near the fireplace is a table and five chairs, and a chest containing foodstuffs; iron rations at the bottom (3 day's worth for 7 men) and whatever fresh food the guards bring along when they begin their duty shift. There is a large water barrel (hidden inside is a large skin-sack of ale) and several cups are on the top lid of the barrel in the north-east corner. Above the fireplace there is an old dented shield and across the mantel is a rusted mace. If the mace is struck against the shield it causes a loud gong to sound on an identical shield kept in the main hall of the circular gate tower. This item is used only in the direst emergencies to signal that city. Each use causes the shield to become more frail and dented and the mace to be eaten more deeply by rust. There is a 30% chance that the next use will destroy both shield and mace, though the gong will still sound within the tower hall. Every use will increase this chance of dissolution by a further 5%.

Along the west wall there is a weapon rack that can hold 6 halberds. There is another rack that can hold 8 heavy crossbows, though no more than 5 are usually found among the guards; (they carry both halberds and crossbows with them from the gatehouse and return with them, while the nightwatch does the same). Beneath the rack for the heavy crossbows is a chest containing 10 cases of 20 crossbow bolts. One of the cases of bolts is dyed red (the others are black). Inside the red case are bolts whose ends are covered in pitch and wrapped with waxed paper to be used as a signal to the gatehouse in an emergency. A second chest contains sharpening stones, weapon oil, rags, bowstrings and small tools that can be used to make adjustments to the crossbow and larger tools that can be used on the ballista on the roof.

At the center of the west wall metal rungs are bolted that lead to a trapdoor in the roof. The trapdoor can be bolted from either side but is normally left open for ease of access, air and light during the day. It is normally shut only when it rains. A rain barrel is set near the ladder and is pushed beneath it to catch leaking water when it does rain.

Near the rain barrel there is a small pile of wood for the fire and a chest filed with coal, (for use with the brazier kept in the roof). A coal scoop and a bucket sit on top of the coal chest.

The roof of the tollhouse has a 4 foot high wall around its edges with merlons set with 3 foot gaps. Archers firing from the roof receive 50% cover providing a bonus of +4 to armor class. At the south edge of the roof there is a ballista mounted on a circular platform. Two levers are set into the platform. One can unlock the platform so it can be spun and the ballista turned to face any direction. The second can be used to raise or lower the platform so that it can fire above the merlons or dropped so that the crew can take cover behind them. When the ballista is raised for firing the crew receives no cover and no armor class bonus. There are two large chests near the ballista. Each contains 10 bolts for the siege engine. A much smaller chest is near the center of the east edge. It contains 20 glass bottles filled with lantern oil. They are capped but beneath the cap a rag has been stuffed into the neck of the bottle. It takes 1 combat round to prepare the oil bottle and light the rag if a flame source is available. A small metal brazier with coal is kept smoldering day and night.

Ballista
Requires a crew of 2
Maximum range is 320 feet
Targets within 30 feet are at point blank (+2 to hit, Double Damage)
Short Range = 30 to 90 feet
Medium Range = 90 to 180 feet (-1 to hit)
Long Range = 180 to 329 feet (-3 to hit for 1/2 damage)
Damage size S-M = 2d10 Large = 3d10

Oil Flask
Range
Short = 0-10 feet
Medium = 10-20 feet (-2 to hit)
Long = 20-30 feet (-5 to hit)
A shattered flask of oil will form into a 10 foot diameter pool and splash oil in a 10 foot radius. Anyone in the pool of oil will suffer 2d6 damage on the first combat round (save versus breath weapon for half damage) and 1d6 damage on the 2nd round (or half damage rounded down if the initial save was passed). Anyone between 5 and 10 feet of the initial impact will be splashed with burning oil which will burn for 1-3 segments causing 1 hp of damage per segment, (save versus breath weapon for no damage). Any items caught within the pool of fire must save versus normal fire or be destroyed.

NOTE: A thrown flask of oil must go somewhere even if it misses its target.

THE GARRISON

The small squad of guards at the tollhouse is broken into two duty shifts. A different group is assigned to these shifts every 6 days drawn from the garrison of the gatehouses. This duty is regarded as onerous and tends to make the guards a trifle more surly than their brethren at the gates.

The duties of the daywatch are:
1) Escort the toll collector from Southgate to the bridge.
2) Relieve the nightwatch guards.
3) Place a guard to walk the bridge and make sure the lightstones are not stolen.
4) Guard the toll collector while he performs his duties and more importantly, the money box. A dead toll collector can be replaced, stolen coin cannot.
5) Every 2nd hour escort the toll collector inside the tollhouse where he empties the money from the coinbox into an iron strongbox.
6) Keep order among the line of travellers as they approach the toll collector.
7) Crank the bridge chain into place at dusk and place the wooden supports beneath the links every 20 feet.
8) Send a runner to the fort at midday or at any time something unusual or dangerous occurs.
9) Clean up the tollhouse for the next duty shift.

The daywatch consists of;

1 Serjeant Ftr Lv4 HP24 AC3
Chainmail +1, Helm, Bronze Badge of Fharlaghn ( an enchanted pin in the symbol of Fharlaghn that gives +1 on saving throws and +1 on armor class). He is armed with a longsword +1 to hit. Heavy Crossbow. Dark red tabard with the device of Greyhawk on the front (his bronze pin is on his right shoulder)

4 Guardsmen Ftr Lv1 HP6 AC4
Chainmail, Helm, Copper badge of Fharlaghn +1 bonus to armor class), Halberd or Heavy Crossbow, Longsword. Dark Red Tabard with the device of Greyhawk on the front. Their copper pins are on their left shoulders.

2 Recruits LV0 HP3 AC8
Leather armor, short sword (-4 to hit)

2 of the guardsmen are assigned to stand by the toll collector while the other two man the ballista on the roof. The serjeant acts as their relief so they can take breaks during their duty shift. The 2 recruits patrol the bridge and act as runners to take messages to the gatetower. The recruits also perform all the scut work such as cleaning the tollhouse, emptying the slop bucket. setting the wooden blocks up as the table for the collector, setting them up at dusk under the chain and operating the crank to wind in the chain.

The toll collector is a 2hp AC10 functionary. He has on his person the keys to the iron chest and the coin box, but is not allowed to carry any coins himself (and is searched when he returns to the citadel at dusk.

At dusk a wagon with a serjeant and 4 men-at-arms (FTR LV2 HP12 AC5) Chainmail, Longsword, Light Crossbow, 20 quarrels , comes to collect the coin box and the toll collector and return both to the Citadel. Soon afterwards the squad of nightwatch guards appears.

The nightwatch at the toll house is identical to the daywatch with the following exceptions. There are no recruits and 2 of the guardsmen are either half-elves or dwarves. The 2 possessing infravision are posted to the roof and man the ballista. The other 2 guardsmen guard the chain and keep anyone from crossing the bridge. One of these guardsmen will act as a runner if it is necessary to send a message to the gatetower. If anyone approaches the bridge after dark the guards direct them to the Bastion to the east of the city, or back along the road to one of the several inns or taverns, (the nearest is an inn called 'South-of-the-Bridge' just a half-mile down the road ).

The duties of the nightwatch are:
1) Relieve the daywatch
2) Man the ballista
3) Guard the bridge and make sure no one steals the chain or the lightstones
4) Lower the chain when the daywatch and toll collector arrive in the morning.


THE TOLL

The toll for crossing the bridge is:
1cp per traveller of size S-M.
10cp per mount of normal size or large travellers.
50cp per wheel of a wagon or cart with a small to medium load
1sp for large to giant-sized mounts or giant sized creatures or heavily loaded vehicles
Extremely heavy or large creatures or vehicles require the permission of the city oligarchs in order to make use of the bridge.

NOTE: I have used the bridge toll costs from Gygax's Yggsburgh campaign setting as a basis for the South Bridge toll.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

White Dwarf #16 Molten Magic


These are mainly sci-fi miniatures though there are a few fantasy (I believe the 3 from Archive Miniatures are all fantasy as well as 3 from Asgard and 1 from Citadel). A fairy poor selection but I would have liked to have had the Battlestar Galatica bootlegs from Q.T. Models. That Cylon raider looks to be a pretty good copy.

The Spear That Roars for Blood - Part 8



They made their way through the thick woods and hid at its edge looking out onto the path. The dogmen had run back up the road to the shelter and the bloody scene of the fight, but along the path more were coming, this time with the skraeling at their head, leading them.

As they left the small side path the dogmen spread out across the road and waited in small groups. The skraeling paced back and forth looking first down the path then up the road to where his scouts had gone.

The sound of marching feet and the grumble of voices could be heard. A long file of hobgoblins appeared, two abreast, along the narrow path. They marched out onto the road and spread out till they filled it side to side, then kept moving south and east toward Gorakil and the lowlands beyond.

A large and heavily armored hobgoblin detached itself from the front rank. It shouted an order and the pig-faced monsters began to march twice as fast, almost at a trot, their feet rose and fell as one and the ground shook beneath their heavy tread.

The skraeling looked eye to eye at the hobgoblin chief, its muzzle-like mouth coughed out words the hobgoblin could understand. It pointed to the north and shook its head. The hobgoblin shouted back, but Arawn could understand neither tongue.

"What they say?" Arawn whispered to Sharptooth.

"Dogman chief, it not want to go south," Sharptooth almost laughed, "It want to look for you and me. Ironskin chief, he say, dogman told to scout ahead, big ones be mad."

The skraeling gave a loud barking shout, the dogmen gathered themselves and began to run up the northern way. The skraeling gave one more coughing yell and the hobgoblin shrugged, and shouted at its hairy back.

"What was that?" asked Arawn

"It say, 'your funeral' when the big ones catch up with them." this time Sharptooth did laugh but he hid it in his hand. "What we do now?"

Arawn watched the hobgoblins march by, their numbers were great and growing with every passing moment. They cut the ranger and the hob off from the south and the east like a mobile wall.

"They are coming along the river, and this path keeps us from crossing to the south," Arawn looked around. "We will have to go back north and cut across the road where they cannot see, then head back east and south through the woodland on the roads other side."

"Maybe we go find friend. He know what way best," Sharptooth said with conviction.

"Friend already want us to go south," Arawn replied and eyed the bespelled hob. Was Daghdha's charm wearing thin, he wondered?

***

Arawn and Sharptooth paralleled the road and moved north. The ranger kept them out of sight and far enough inside the wood so that Sharptooth's noisy passage would not call down the attention of the dogmen upon them.

They'd traveled for several minutes before Arawn stopped them and checked the road. "Stay here!" he told Sharptooth. "I'll see if the road is clear."

Sharptooth nodded, but as soon as Arawn had disappeared the hob took off heading north.

***

"Dogmen, curse them," Arawn thought to himself. The skraeling chief and its patrol had met the scouts returning with the wounded dogman that Arawn had left behind. They barked back and forth. What did they say? Arawn wished he'd picked up some words of their uncouth tongue.

The skraeling became enraged. It pushed at the wounded dogman, knocked it from the supporting arms of its fellows and began to kick it unmercifully. There was a growling discontent, the skraeling carried an iron rod and swung it suddenly without warning. It struck down the nearest dogman, brought the tall beast to its knees. The skraeling struck again and again till the dogman's head was a bloody pulp. The other dogmen all backed away, some whined in fear and cringed. With a loud, deep bark the skraeling set them running, back to the south and the hobgoblin troops. But before it disappeared down the road, Arawn saw the skraeling glance back north with a look of fear on its own face, the mirror of the cringing dogmen.

Two bodies lay upon the road. As Arawn watched the one-fanged wounded dogman pulled itself along the ground and off the road. When it reached the woods along the eastern verge, it collapsed and lay still. Arawn knew it couldn't have died, that dogman was born for hanging, since sword and savage beatings could not seem to end its life.

The road was clear at last. Now to collect that dragon–footed clumsy hob from where he'd left him, thought Arawn.

The trail led to a three-boled tree, a hollow center stump whose limbs had grown when the parent trunk had died. He'd left the hob leaning back against it, propped up like some woodland king upon a bark covered throne, but the seat was vacant when he returned.

"Sharptooth," Arawn hissed. He looked around the tree, no hob in sight. "Sharptooth, curse you hob. Sharptooth!" he spoke as loud as he dared. The hob was gone, Arawn circled the tree once more but with a ranger's eye. There! A branch pushed back, broken, the hob moved north. Arawn set off in pursuit.

He had not traveled far when the sound of feet upon the road came through the wood. Had the hobgoblins turned north? Arawn paused. No, the sound came from the north and grew louder with each moment. There were shouts and rough bits of song and many, many voices calling back and forth. The footsteps rang out, a distant drumming sound, but imprecise, a wave of noise, not the ground shaking rhythm of the ordered hobgoblin ranks of the other tribe.

Arawn came to the wood's thin edge and crawled across the underbrush to view what creatures passed along the road.

Hobs, curse them all. These were the rest of Sharptooth's tribe. They bore painted shields carried on their backs and some had colored banners that showed the bitten sword, the symbol of their clan. They packed the road and moved as a great crowd, some ran ahead, then dropped back, others marched arm in arm and drove all from their path, some ran and tried to break the line, some with success forcing the marchers apart, others thrown to the side or on the ground. It was like some festival, a merry drunken crowd that laughed and sang, and had all day to get there and no place they had to be.

***

The trees gave a rustle behind Arawn and to his right. Sharptooth came crashing out, he shouted and called to the approaching band and stopped before them in the center of the road.

"That hob, I'll be his death," Arawn swore. He lay in wait but drew his sword and prepared for one last desperate fight to make them pay as dearly as he could before they took his life.

***

The hobs did not stop but several ran ahead and greeted Sharptooth merrily.

"Chief send you?" A large hob asked.

"You hurt?" another said.

"Look!" one called and pointed to a ragged gory banner, a dogman's hide uncured and still dripping with blood was held aloft upon a spear. "We find in road back there," it said.

"Chief dead, I escape," Sharptooth told them.

"The chief dead!"," What happened!"," Good!" all three said at once.

"Humans, warriors, they come, kill chief, kill many of tribe...." Sharptooth explained.

The roar of the approaching hobs drowned out what else Sharptooth said from Arawn's ears.

The others must be dead Arawn felt it in his heart. They would have found him along the road, or at least made some try at slowing these beasts' advance. Word must make it through to the lowlands. Arawn knew he must live long enough to tell of these monsters. The river was the only way.

Arawn crawled back into the woods. With his last glance at the road he saw Sharptooth surrounded by his clan and a new shout of anger and concern rising above the bouts of song and laughter. Out of sight, he stood and began to run.

The river was not far off, not here along this length of road, but a little further and the path curved and twisted around the sides of hills. The river flowed down an almost straight course till it reached the walls of Gorakil and ran north following a valley basin where the Green Oakwood and the town of Highaelph lay. The water would be the quickest way.

No boats sailed down the Aelphstream from its source, the river was fast and teamed with falls and rapids, but there was no other way. The hobgoblins would be before the walls of Gorakil by dawn if they marched all night. The river would take but half a day if he could survive the passage.

The woods thinned again as he neared the water's edge. They ended in a cliff that stood a good two score of feet above the rushing water. A narrow bank below was lined with marching troops; more hobgoblins, but to the north their rearguard marched along and a troop of formorians followed at a leisurely pace.

"The mountains must be empty. Will this horde of monsters never end," Arawn said to himself. The wooded cliff rose higher further to the north and jutted out closer to the river's edge. Arawn cursed the loss of time and turned his back on Gorakil, heading north. He weaved his way through the trees till he reached the jutting ledge of cliff. He heard the formorians and the steady thrum of the water far below.

Looking down he saw a formorian struggle past the narrow curve of path, though any human, dogman or hob would have had room to do a dance. Arawn dropped his pack and took off his leather vest. The pommel of his sword he tied down and then made his belt into a baldric and pulled it secure over his shoulder. His boots he laced together and held them tight, then with one final glance below, Arawn threw himself from the cliff, out far as he could go, and fell past startled formorians then splashed into the stream.

***

Cold, a sudden shocking breath-stealing cold; This close to the river's source all melting ice and run-off from a mountain lake. Arawn gasped, a stream of bubbles escaped, he sank deep and grazed the very bottom of the stream in his fall.

The current shoved him along as he swam up, his air was gone, his lungs emptied by the crash and the shocking icy water. It was not far to the surface but every moment felt like an eternity.

His head broke free. He coughed, spit water and gasped for air. He gulped it in and sputtered, he drank down a mouthful of both with every breath. The water roared about him and downstream, not far ahead the roaring sound increased.

"The fall!" he shouted to himself, the words were faint above the broken chorus of the stream. Another dive, such as his jump from the cliff, lay straight ahead, but now he would be joined by countless tons of foaming river.

***

A formorian, an average looking brute, heard Arawn's splash. It turned its head to see what made the noise and a spray of water caught it right across its face and chest. The formorian's eyes were blinded for a moment by the unexpected dowsing. It bellowed out a roar of shock and lost its balance on the narrow path. An out-thrusting wall of rock made the river's edge a tight squeeze for his massive kind. Its arms flailed out but its head struck the stone cliff wall, the formorian reeled and with a bloody scalp fell backwards into the river's speeding course.

The freezing water brought the monster round, but its injured head made all the world look hazy and doubled in upon itself. The formorian swam, but the river was not so deep that its feet would not have reached the bed and let it walk if it could manage against the rushing force of the stream. Its stomach heaved like a landsman's might upon the sea, and cold though the water was, a fierce heat beat between its eyes and in its chest.

Great arms rose and fell, the formorian speeded on. The water pulled and pushed it fast down toward the fall close ahead. Some bit of jetsam bobbed in its path, it tried to veer aside but the formorian moved to fast.

***

Arawn shook with cold, his teeth chattered though he held them tightly clenched. He bit into the leather of his boot to keep them still. His body felt mostly numb, his wounded side was a dull ache that ebbed as the water chilled it to a senseless lump of flesh. A small cloudy splash of red hung around him as he was rushed downstream.

***

Two swimmers crashed, one small and riding on the stream, the other of giant size and with massive arms splashing forward at great speed. Arawn did not slow the formorian down one little bit. He was buffeted by the monster's bleeding head and caught against a shoulder the size of some great tree. The ranger reached out and grabbed onto a thick hide vest then pulled himself up by handfuls of the formorian's sodden hair. With a heave Arawn made it to the formorian's back and like a child with arms around its parent's neck, held on for his dear life.

***

The formorian's back was wet and cold and its arms sent up great splashes which rained down upon Arawn as he clung to the monster's neck. Still the day was warm for the time of year and the sun felt good between the chilling drops.

The roar of the fall grew louder and the shouting from the shore was drowned out. A long line of hobgoblins stopped and pointed at Arawn and his unlikely living watercraft, they screamed and roared themselves hoarse but the river's voice was stronger. Some sound of it must have reached the formorian's ears, it shook its head and Arawn flailed about like a small dog on a stranger's trouser leg. The formorian turned itself and fought the current. It swam for the river's edge. The hobgoblins hooted with a glee that the ranger could not hear.